After 60 years in the surety business, Al Johnson has no plans for a traditional retirement. In fact, the 87-year-old continues to service a handful of longtime clients and looks forward to going into the office several days per week. For the past 25 years, Johnson has been associated with McGriff Insurance Services (formerly BB&T Boyle Vaughan Insurance) in Columbia, S.C.
A graduate of Boston College, the U.S. Marine Corps brought Johnson from his native state of Massachusetts to South Carolina in the 1950s. He met his wife while visiting Myrtle Beach on leave and they were married in 1958. Now a widower, Johnson has three children and three grandchildren.
Johnson’s first job in the surety industry was with National Surety Company in Columbia. He began working for Boyle Vaughan Insurance in the early 1960s, then joined the Hammond Story Agency. In 1984, Johnson started his own agency – R.N. Crawford & Company – which Boyle Vaughan purchased in 1992.
In addition to servicing the surety programs forvarious general and specialty contractors throughout the state of South Carolina, Johnson enjoys cooking and entertaining clients and friends at his homes in Columbia and Edisto Beach.
In a recent conversation with GroundBreak Carolinas, Johnson reflected on his extensive career in the construction industry in South Carolina.
How did you get started in the Surety business?
While in the Marine Corps, I married a young lady from Columbia, S.C. Her father was the bond manager for National Surety in South Carolina. He convinced me that a career in the surety bond profession would be my best career choice when I left the service. I had no idea what the surety business represented. After five-and-a-half months of schooling in New York City at the National Surety home office, I gained an understanding of the business.
Why have you stuck with it all these years?
While working as an underwriter with National Surety, my knowledge of what the surety bond business involves developed rapidly. I really enjoyed calling on prospects. The constant interaction with contractors gave me a great insight into the construction business. As the years have gone by, I have not only established business relationships with contractors, but in many cases, longtime personal friendships have developed. All this has made my so-called work as a bond producer a really pleasant business relationship.
How have you seen the industry change?
Changes! Where do I begin? The contractors of the 1950s and 1960s were, I would say, a rough and rowdy bunch. They were hard working, self-made individuals. Business writing would on many occasions consist of many drinks, cigarettes and cussing. No women were involved as underwriters, it was all male back then. Today’s contractors are better educated and more sophisticated. They have bought into modern technology. When I started in the business, computers were non-existent. Times have changed, I do believe, for the better.
Bobby Lavisky, Vice President, McGriff Insurance Services, has worked with Al for more than 30 years. “Al has certainly become a legend in this industry. This is not just because of his longevity, but because of his fierce loyalty to his clients and his unselfish, giving nature. Those who know him well can attest that there is no one with a bigger heart than Al Johnson!”